The COVID-19 vaccination has been on everyone’s minds ever since the pandemic swept across the globe. The virus which has caused almost one million deaths and economic turmoil worldwide, has seen the scientific community racing to produce a viable vaccine as the pressure mounts from governments. Vaccines save millions of lives every year and are widely herald by scientific communities and public health officials for being the most successful and cost-effective health interventions. The widespread use of vaccines has seen worldwide eradication of dangerous diseases such as smallpox. Polio has almost been completely eradicated and other diseases such as tetanus and whooping cough have been pushed to the brink of extinction which can all be attributed to the successful administration of vaccines.
Herd Immunity is a word you may have heard thrown around in the media recently. This is a key term when it comes to epidemic control referring to when a large portion of the community (the herd) becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. As a result, the whole community becomes protected and not just those who have been vaccinated. Herd immunity means that some diseases can be eliminated when a sufficient percentage of the population become immune through vaccination or previous infection. However, the more contagious a disease is, the greater the proportion of the population that needs to be immune to the disease to stop its spread. A vaccine is considered the most ideal and efficient approach to achieving herd immunity.
So where is Australia at with a Vaccine?
Currently the Australian Government has agreements in place for the supply of COVID-19 vaccines, if they are proved to be safe and effective with:
- University of Oxford/AstraZeneca
- University of Queensland/CSL
Under the agreement both parties will provide more than 84.8 million vaccine doses for the Australian population, almost entirely manufactured in Melbourne, with early access to 3.8 million doses of the University of Oxford vaccine in January and February 2021.
When will a Vaccine be available?
In a media release from Prime Minister Scott Morrison stated that “both vaccines would need to be proven safe and effective, and meet all necessary regulatory requirements, prior to being made available to the public. Australians will gain free access to a COVID-19 vaccine in 2021 if trials prove successful”. There are no guarantees that these vaccines will be successful, however the agreements will place Australia at the forefront of the vaccines pass late stage testing and are given the green-light by the medical community.
How will the Vaccine be Distributed?
Associate Professor Mark Morgan, Chair of the RACGP Expert Committee highlighted that there would need to be meticulous planning around the mass vaccination distribution, transportation, and storage. He also stated that GP’s are very likely to be heavily involved in the vaccine’s distribution.
In order to create a smoother and quicker distribution, State and Territory Governments are being urged to alter legislation to enable pharmacists to administer COVID-19 vaccines in a proactive approach. This way pharmacists will be capable and qualified to provide this service. Whilst some States and Territories have already passed the relevant legislation to enable this, under these current regulations both states will need a prescription from their GP before a COVID vaccine can be administered by a pharmacist. In terms of who will get the vaccine first, this is something that is yet to be decided by the government and will be based on expert medical advice.
In the Meantime…
Until we have a successful vaccine developed, it is still crucial to slow the spread by continued compliance with the social distancing regulations. This will make sure that individuals at increased risk of severe illness such as the elderly population and anyone with underlying health conditions will be protected in the meantime. If you are showing any symptoms and need to be tested for COVID-19 or you need a work clearance certificate, see one of our online doctors who are available 24/7 to provide advice, treatment, or referrals.